Tips for busy dog owners are always welcomed because while dogs are one of the greatest blessings, we all know how packed our schedules can get.
Busy people can still be great dog owners, but they need to be extra-organized to make sure the dog doesn’t get squeezed out of their schedule. As the saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy person” – the chances are that you are busy because you have worked out how to make the most of every day.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways a busy dog owner can make sure their dog flourishes, dialling down the stress levels so both pup and human can have the fulfilling relationship that will do much to calm the hustle and bustle of life.
32 tips for busy dog owners
1. Be organized
Organization is a general life hack for all busy people. Don’t waste time looking for things. Allocate a place for each of your doggy items – leash, poop bags, harness, coats – and always return them once used.
2. Hire a dog walker
Walking your dog might be one of the most enjoyable aspects of ownership (admittedly less so when it’s pouring and freezing), but there are times when busy people physically don’t have time to do this daily task. Don’t let your dog miss out on his cherished outing, though, by hiring a dog walker to come to your house and give him his exercise.
3. Meal prep
Depending on what you feed your dog, you can cut down on time spent preparing meals. If you cook for your dog from scratch, do it in bulk and freeze portions for a month’s supply.
If you use the best raw dog food that arrives frozen, have a system so you remember to take it out of the freezer 12 hours before, so that you don’t have to waste time microwaving it to defrost.
Make a food station: keep all your feeding items in one place, for example, the dry food in storage bins or canned food in a cabinet next to the dog dishes. If you need a can-opener for every meal, store one next to the cans, so you don’t have to wander round and rummage through drawers elsewhere.
Keep a mini vacuum cleaner and a sponge next to the food station, so you can quickly clean up any mess.
4. Doggy daycare
Of course you want to spend all day with your dog, but there are times when we are stretched, have to spend long days in the office, or go into town. Whether it’s for one-off events or more regularly, booking your pooch into doggy daycare means they will be looked after all day long, kept company and walked, groomed, whatever extras you pay for. Not a cheap option, but hugely preferable to neglecting your dog all day long.
5. Food on subscription
You can avoid that urgent 45-minute round trip to the pet store to top up on dog food for a hungry pooch by setting up a monthly subscription. It then arrives on your doorstep, just as you are getting down to your last few cans or pellets.
6. Washable covers
To minimize vacuuming pet hair and scrubbing off dirt patches, cover your couches, beds and beanbags with washable throws. This makes for super easy cleaning. Once a week or fortnight, throw the covers into the washing machine, which is so much quicker – and more effective – than trying to remove ingrained traces of dog from furniture.
7. Mobile grooming
If you own the sort of dog that needs regular trips to the salon, look into booking the services of a mobile groomer. Taking your dog out to the grooming parlor takes time, and trying to do the job yourself takes even longer! A mobile groomer will visit your house and do a professional job while you get on with chores or your work. Although, if you do fancy having a go yourself, be sure to read up on dog grooming tips.
Doing the same thing at the same time every day gives an organized structure to your routine, so that you know what you are doing at any given moment, and therefore where you can allocate your precious time. It also makes you less likely to forget things or to find that your dog’s walk gets squeezed out of your day because you didn’t make time for it. If you are in the habit of walking your dog every morning before breakfast, or at lunchtime, that slot becomes sacrosanct.
9. File important numbers
Keep all the important contacts to do with your dog in a set place, possibly on a whiteboard where everyone in the family can see it, and in a tidy place on your phone. For example, the vet, the insurance company, the groomer, the dog walker. That way you won’t have to scroll through contacts trying to remember what company you insured with, and what your groomer’s surname is, but can quickly access the numbers in seconds. This is particularly useful in high-stress situations such as a veterinary emergency, when time is of the essence.
10. Invest in dental chews
We know we are meant to brush our dog’s teeth daily, but given that 80% of dogs have canine periodontal disease by the age of three, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, not enough of us are doing so. It’s estimated that only 2% of dog owners brush their teeth daily.
If daily brushing seems beyond your capacity time-wise, use dental chews regularly and brush their gnashers at weekends, or when you have more time.
11. Book appointments on time
Whether it’s for the vet or the groomer, always book your next appointment while you are paying for the current one. This saves you having to look through your diary at a later date when you get home, calling up, waiting in the queue, and possibly missing the slot you should have had.
12. Stock up with toys
We can’t all be around all day every day. For very busy days, make sure your dog is well-supplied with only the best dog toys to keep them busy too. Puzzle toys are mentally stimulating, and will keep dogs occupied while rewarding them as they work out the challenge.
13. Drop-in friends and family
When you have to spend long days out of the home, make sure your dog isn’t abandoned for hours on end. Ask friends and family if they can drop in, even if it’s just to let the dog out for a pee, half an hour of company, or have a game of fetch with your furry friend.
14. Play classical music
Several studies have shown that dogs are soothed by certain genres of music. According to a study on the “Behavioral effects of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs”, classical music encouraged dogs to spend more time sleeping and less time barking. While heavy metal music provoked tremors and shaking.
Another study on the auditory stimulation on the behavior of rescue dogs showed that classical music encouraged dogs to lie down and rest quietly. This is a useful ploy if you need to be out for a spell.
15. Take your dog to work
Some workplaces allow you to take your pup to work with you, so ask your boss or company if this is feasible. Therapy dogs are more likely to be permitted, so it may be worth getting your dog trained up – and your colleagues may benefit too!
16. Deal with separation anxiety
If your dog is very needy, and suffers separation anxiety, he is not likely to cope well with a busy owner who is always coming and going. You’ll need to reduce separation anxiety problems when you are not in hyper-busy mode so that you can leave the home comfortably without unnecessary stress on either dog or human.
You may need to get help from a professional trainer, but there are a few tactics to set you off on the right footing. Start slowly, leaving for a few minutes and returning, several times, so that your puppy stops bothering about you leaving as they know you’ll return quickly and it is OK for you to go.
Don’t smother your pet with hugs and kisses either when you leave or return. It’s no big deal, and if you make a fuss, you are only validating their anxiety. Dogs don’t have the same concept of time as us – they simply wait for us to return.
Since COVID, many businesses have enabled employees to work at home at least for some of the week. This means that you can spend your lunchtime walking your dog rather than heading to the nearest sandwich shop, and he will enjoy your presence all day in the home even if you have to spend most of your time at your desk.
18. Split your walks
An hour’s daily exercise – a ballpark figure for the average dog – doesn’t all need to happen in one go. If you are busy working but at home or nearby, you can split the hour into four 15-minute chunks. For instance, one in the morning before breakfast, a mid-morning coffee break (take your coffee with a lid), lunch break, and after work. Your dog will love the regular attention, you’ll feel refreshed, and you’ll hardly notice you’ve done a full hour.
19. Choose your breed
If you are intent on getting a dog, but wondering if you are too busy, choose your breed carefully. While no dogs should be left alone for hours on end, certain breeds require more interaction; they’re more needy or they require tons of exercise.
An older or rescue dog might seem like a better option for busy people as they don’t have the intense demands of a puppy, however, if they have been neglected they may have separation anxiety and other issues, and need a very stable environment with a stay-at-home owner.
20. Try before you buy
If you are wondering whether you can fit a dog into your busy schedule, offer to look after a friend or family member’s dog when they are on holiday. You will soon work out if your lifestyle can accommodate a canine friend.
21. Automatic food and water dispensers
Some dogs need to be fed little and often, or they are prone to tipping their water bowl over. If you are out for a long periods and are concerned they might be left without water or their necessary food top-up, use an automatic dispenser. You can set a timer so that the food and water appear at predetermined times.
22. Set up a camera
Various cameras are on the market which will show you exactly what your dog is up to while you are out. They give you peace of mind – or fits of giggles – when leaving your pup alone.
Some have two-way audio and can alert you via an app to your dog barking, so that you can talk to the dog to appease him. Many of them launch treats, or have interactive properties.
23. Give your dog access to the outside
It’s obviously a security issue – as well as a waste of the heating bill – to leave your back door open so that your dog can access the backyard. However, when you are away for more than a few hours, your dog may need to do his business, or just stretch his legs. You could leave him outside, but he may want the creature comforts of his home – and depending on where you are in the world, the weather may be inclement.
Instead, you can install a magnetic or electronic dog door that recognizes your dog and only opens for them – to allow your dog to pick and choose when he wants to go out – just make sure you teach him to use it!
24. Automated toys
Your dog would prefer to play with you, but any playtime is good, especially if he has a game he really loves. There are plenty of electronic, robotic or self-motion toys on the market to keep your dog amused. They are great for mental stimulation, to prevent him from getting bored and possibly resorting to destructive behavior.
25. Buddy up with fellow busy people
Tap into your local dog community to see if you can share dog visits between you. Your doggy friend can take care of your dog while you’re too busy, and you can reciprocate the favor on your day off. Costs you nothing, and makes two dogs and their owners happy.
26. Exercise together
If you are one of these high-achieving people that manages to fit in a job, family and fitness training, try combining the latter with exercising your dog. Rather than spending an hour pounding on machines at the gym, and wondering how you’re going to squeeze in the dog walk, put on your outdoor trainers and run with your dog. You might need to work up his fitness gradually, but it’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
27. Get another dog!
This might seem counter-intuitive, but two dogs take pretty much the same as one to look after – especially in terms of exercise, which is the most time-consuming issue. Two dogs keep each other company when you do have to leave them alone for extended periods – they can play and distract each other from getting bored.
28. Feed before you leave
A hungry dog is more likely to be anxious and prowling around, whereas a satiated dog will usually settle down and go to sleep or rest while he’s digesting. If you feed your dog just before you leave the house for an extended period, he’s less likely to be whimpering because his tummy’s rumbling.
29. Exercise before you leave
Being busy is never an excuse for not giving your dog everything he needs – which includes daily exercise. If you are going out for the day, it’s ideal if you can give him a good walk – even before sunrise – just before you leave because a tired dog is a happy dog. What you don’t want is a whole lot of pent-up energy building up all day long, waiting anxiously for your return.
30. Take your dog too
If you have a day of errands stretching ahead of you, rushing in and out of the house with barely time to make eye contact with your pup, it might be a good idea to take him in the car with you as you dash around from place to place, providing you won’t have to leave him in there on his own. He’ll enjoy the outings and dogs tend to be quite content resting in the car – because the very fact that they have been taken means they know they won’t be left behind. Of course, never leave your dog in the car in sunny or hot conditions.
31. Little and often
Some dog owners don’t work in an office all day, but they are simply too busy rushing around to give their dog the attention it deserves. Give your dog little snippets of love, a 30-second cuddle, a two-minute game of fetch, and a one-minute tug-of-war. Rather than thinking you need to spend an hour at once giving your dog your full attention, little moments will show him you’re present, you’re on his mind and you love him.
32. Don’t skimp on training
It’s tempting to let training go out of the window when you are a busy person. However, a well-trained dog is a delight to have around, and is arguably more grounded and better able to cope when you are in busy mode. Training him yourself deepens the bond, but you can equally pay a professional to do the job. A badly behaved dog is a menace to everyone and will cause undue stress to an already hectic life – not to mention the time spent tidying up in the wake of his destruction!
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Martha is an experienced journalist working in both print and digital media. She specializes in the canine, equine and rural sphere where she has covered a wide range of topics from cloning animals and the ingredients for a perfect yard dog, to helping owners find the best canine GPS trackers on the market. When she’s not busy writing about dogs and horses, she’ll be found either aboard a horse or looking after the menagerie of pets in her care.